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Reading Groups

NEA Big Read: Madeline Miller's Circe and Other Voices in Homer's Odyssey with Jeanna Lucci Canapari

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Four Sessions Tuesdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT June 11 to September 10, 2024

The Center for Fiction

This group has reached its capacity. To join the waitlist, please email Sebastian Mazza at [email protected].

Meeting Dates:
6/11, 7/9, 8/6, 9/10
In Person at The Center for Fiction

This course is free as part of our NEA Big Read program. Registration includes a complimentary copy of Circe by Madeline Miller. The remaining titles required for this course are available for purchase at the links below.

“When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” So begins Madeline Miller’s novel Circe, the story of the goddess and witch whom Odysseus encounters in his travels home from Troy to Ithaca in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. In her telling of the story of Circe, who is most famous for turning men into swine, how does Miller portray one of Homer’s few female characters? How does Circe begin to name and define herself, and understand her life on a far-flung island in the male-dominated world of the Heroic Age of Greek mythology? In this reading group, we will explore how Circe’s alternate point of view echoes and illuminates the themes of Homer’s work, including homecoming, sexual politics, and magic. In comparison to Circe, we will look at her portrayal in a new translation of The Odyssey by Emily Wilson, one of few translations of the ancient work written by a woman. We will also examine other works that offer alternate interpretations of The Odyssey, in particular Omeros, a poem by Nobel Prize winner Derek Wolcott that uses themes and characters from Homer to describe life in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. We will also look at Ulysses by James Joyce, and other poems and works of visual art that characterize the ancient world’s notorious, and perhaps misunderstood, sorceress.

For the first class, participants should have read the entirety of Madeline Miller’s Circe. In later classes, we will continue to discuss Miller’s book in tandem with other readings, particularly Omeros.

  • Session I: Circe by Madeline Miller
  • Session II: Homer’s The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson
  • Session III: Omeros by Derek Walcott

What to Expect from This Reading Group: Each session will begin with a short talk on context and background for our readings, as well as a set up for potential discussion topics. The conversation will be participant driven.


Led by

  • Jeanna Lucci-Canapari Large

    Jeanna Lucci Canapari

    Jeanna Lucci Canapari

    Jeanna Lucci Canapari is a freelance writer and a candidate for an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at University of King’s College (Halifax, Nova Scotia), and is working on a memoir centered on the intersection of truth and mythology in an Italian immigrant family. Her freelance work appears mainly in Yale University publications, and her personal essays have appeared in Salon, Creative Nonfiction, Allegory Ridge, and Off Assignment. She holds a BA in English from Columbia University and though she currently lives in New Haven, she is a former and forever Brooklynite.